When I left Australia, I knew that I had a lot to learn about beef production. Exposure to all facets of the US industry only reinforced that I still have a lot of learning yet to do, but I now have some of the best connections, and a solid grounding of knowledge to expand on. It is incredibly liberating to know that your only agenda for the day is to get up and learn, to soak in as much knowledge as you can and to grab every opportunity offered with both hands.
I left in January, first flying into Dallas Fort Worth, before heading north to Manhattan, Kansas. Here I spent 4 months studying during the spring semester at Kansas State University (KSU). My classes included Ruminant Nutrition, Beef Science, Principles of Feeding, Reproduction, Cow-Calf Health, Livestock & Meat Evaluation, Livestock Sales Management and Beef Systems Management. This variety of classes gave me the chance to meet many K-State Alumni, now industry leaders, and fellow students from the College of Agriculture at KSU. I was lucky enough to travel with the KSU Collegiate Cattlemen’s Club to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Conference in Phoenix, Arizona; and also on their spring tour, through Southern Kansas and into Oklahoma, visiting DewEze and Sooner Land and Livestock.
Through my classes I was lucky enough to tour through both the campus facilities and local businesses and meet a number of industry stakeholders. This covered the on-campus feed mill, seed stock operations, feedlots and dry lotting operations; I was fortunate enough to be in the class that toured the National Beef Plant and lucky enough to attend AI ‘school’.
As part of livestock sales management, the class assisted with all elements of running the KSU Legacy Bull and Female Sale. With an Agency background, I was able to compare and contrast the different selling methods, calling bids at this sale was one of my favourite and more memorable experiences, even if my ‘Australian’ was a little tricky to understand.
Mid way through the semester, I went on Spring Break to Montana, travelling through the state with classmates from KSU to their homes and ranches. I was able to attend the Vermillion Angus Ranch sale, as they sold over 500 bulls, to gross over $3million. I visited Sitz Angus, 5L Red Angus, Snowshoe Cattle Co (Hereford), Milk Creek Reds (Red Angus) and Midland Bull Test.
I capitalised on any time that I was not in class; I fed cattle in 4 feet of snow in Montana, moved cows on horseback in Texas – where the 52 inch rainfall means reduced nutritional content of the pastures. I inducted cattle into Kansas seed stock operations, tagging, vaccinating, drenching, tattooing and tail bleeding all for the first time. I was lucky enough to spend three precious days shadowing Dr Tom Noffsinger, a vet dedicated to improving animal welfare through low stress handling.
What an incredible 6 months I have had, I still pinch myself to see if it was real!
I have had a number of people ask me what the highlight of my trip was – it’s impossible to say! Reflecting on my time in the states, I realise how incredibly blessed I have been; to not only be given this opportunity but to have had the experiences and memories that I can carry with me.
From Phoenix to Oklahoma, artificial breeding centres to sale barns, my boots have covered a lot of USA miles. While they are planted back firmly on Aussie soil, the marks that Kansas has left on both me, and my boots, are not un-noticeable. I have come home with a healthy appreciation of the global protein market and US production, a passion for the beef industry and a renewed enthusiasm for agency and the wider agricultural industry.
A final thank you to Angus Australia, Semex and the amazing Americans who made the US memorable.